Twenty-five years ago, New West KnifeWorks founder Corey Milligan was working as a raft guide and a line cook –“back before cooks all called themselves chefs”– and making knives as a side hobby. He was tired of the plain black handles on chefs knives and wanted to make something he was proud to use everyday. The newly married Milligan purchased a two-bedroom subsidized-housing unit in Jackson, Wyoming, and as a true testament to the importance of compromise, his wife agreed to let him turn the spare bedroom into a knife-making “factory.”
“I laid plastic down on the carpet, put plywood on top of that, and put a plastic screen in the doorway to keep the dust out,” Milligan remembers.
That plywood and plastic covered spare bedroom was the testing ground for the chef’s knife, bread knife, paring knife and steak knives that Milligan is now famous for.
The knife factory has moved a total of eight times since then, including stints in an old Wyoming guest cabin and a rented shop across the street from the Hells Angels headquarters in Ventura, California. New West KnifeWorks has been on the move once again, relocating tools, machines, and employees from a 1,500 square foot rented space on Gregory Lane in Jackson to its new 10,000 square foot home in Victor, Idaho.
New West owns the new building, which lies just over a steep mountain pass about forty minutes from their retail shop in downtown Jackson. Victor, Idaho is what Jackson was twenty years ago– a quaint, quiet valley town with cheaper real estate, available labor, and more local families than empty second homes and hotels. The factory can accommodate growing demand for the custom knives and includes an internet distribution center, plenty of local hires, and an outlet store. Where tools used to lie on top of tools, new organized assembly lines exist, clearing the clutter for innovative new projects.
Production manager Erin Hemmings says, “The new factory is exciting for me because it means I get to design more new machines. It’s a huge upgrade in terms of space, and space equals capability.”
More space to foster Hemmings’ creativity is certainly a good thing. He has already invented a completely unique machine that seamlessly adds serration to bread and steak knives, and a polishing machine that speeds up production by polishing both sides of a knife at the same time. Milligan says, “Knives have been made forever, so to make something unique like this is kind of a big deal.”
“I’m obsessed with how to overcome challenges when making tools or cool stuff,” Hemmings says. The new factory might as well have “Cool Stuff Made Here” written on the side of the building, and one can only imagine what will materialize as a result of so much expanded capability. Remember, it all started in a spare bedroom.
Creativity has always driven Corey and New West KnifeWorks. Before opening his own shop, Corey sold his knives at Art Shows all over the country. Bellevue to Boca Raton, DC to Santa Monica and everywhere in between.
Those years of traveling and refining knives has led to the designs being produced at the Victor factory. A perfect mix of Japanese and German knives. Sleek and thin, yet durable and hearty where it counts. Always razor sharp, of course, thanks to US-produced S35VN Powder Steel.
Inspired by Jackson Hole living, New West KnifeWorks also created a "brother brand", MTN MAN Toy Shop, which supplies the best in American-made pocket knives, hunting knives, and gear for the "mountain man" in all of us. It's also the ideal setting to showcase New West's own line of high performance fixed blade hunting knives, one-of-a-kind Damascus knives, and super-tough tomahawks.